Its time to sow spring and summer crops. Seeds of fast-growing salads like lettuce ‘Tom Thumb’, Mesclun mix, Mizuna and the super-fast Rocket can be sown anytime now for a harvest in as little as four weeks. Kids can be lured outdoors with a packet of mixed radish seeds – sowing them into the shape of initials can be fun. Heavy cropping summer favourites like climbing beans, aubergines, capsicums, tomatoes, pumpkins and zucchini can be sown now. Seeds are usually started off in trays and punnets that are given warmth and indoor protection before being planted out after Labour Day. If you are feeling lucky and you live in a really sheltered part of the country then you might get away with sowing some directly outside. To beat any temperamental bouts of bad weather and slugs with re-awakened appetites sow your first run of summer herbs like basil, coriander and parsley into pots. Scatter seeds into a layer of fine seed raising mix – about half a finger deep – over some enriched planting compost in your containers. Keep soil moist and thin seedlings as they start to grow. In a few weeks, as the weather settles, you can sow further batches out in the garden that will be ready to take over when your potted crops have been exhausted. Plant asparagus crowns now for a 20 year harvest.
Globe artichokes raise their stunning flower heads and the start of a delicious harvest commences. When they get to between golf ball and tennis ball size, cut the flower heads from the stem about an inch below the underside of their base. Flowers can be cooked and eaten whole when small or with the ‘choke’ removed during the cooking process if they are larger. Asparagus spears should start breaking ground around now and can be harvested as long as plants have already had two previous seasons in the garden. In warmer areas, large - and heavy - bunches of bananas are ripening around now. They are ready when the bananas have visibly swelled but are still green. Watch out as you bring them down by cutting the whole stem away from the main plant with some loppers. You might like to get someone to help by taking the weight of the bunch as it is cut free. Bananas can then be ripened to sweet perfection indoors in a warm dry place.
If you don’t already have one then now is a good time to set up a worm farm ‘wormery' in your garden. Within a couple of weeks of getting one started you should be collecting fabulous free worm juice to nourish high performing heavy feeders like tomatoes, aubergines, zucchini and sweetcorn as they start to grow and mature.more
Seared Scallops with Avocado & Asparagus
I wasn’t big on scallops until I started cooking them and realized how quick and easy they are to prepare – they have got to be eaten fresh though! This recipe goes with a spicy avocado salsa that is basically an un-mashed guacamole – and everyone loves that don’t they!
"Fold an old newspaper a couple of times, until its about the size of a laptop. Lay this on your bed and anchor the corners with some soil or stones. Come back in a day or so and you’ll see a load of slugs have slithered underneath it. Deal with them and put paper back down."
Once the impetus of spring sees us all planting and sowing in earnest its worth remembering how good it is to be able to enjoy a continued harvest for as long as possible. This means not planting an entire crop at once as this can result in a glut of produce and then just as quickly a scarcity in the garden.
It can help if you first plan your beds and containers (try a quick scribble on a piece of paper). Decide what crops will go where and how much space you’ll give them – mark this out so you have a visual record. Then sow or plant a row or a half row every few weeks until you have filled the allocated spaces over a period of time. This will produce a staggered harvest.
From now on if you sow or plant fast growers such as beetroot, coriander, carrots, dwarf beans, lettuce, mizuna, parsley and peas in this way you should be enjoying fresh and tasty, vegetables and herbs from now through to autumn and winter.
It’s a good idea to get seeds of companion flowers and herbs underway in beds or seed trays now – your plants will love you for it!
Companion planting is where different plants are combined in a garden for mutual benefit. Constantly introducing as much diversity into your garden as you can helps to create a healthy environment. It is also an essential part of balanced and sustainable food growing on any scale - without resorting to the use of chemicals for pest control. French marigolds exude chemical compounds (thiopenes) that repel microscopic root eating roundworms (nematodes) that feed on vegetable plants like tomatoes. Bright open-faced flowers like sunflowers, cosmos and French marigolds attract pollinating bees as well as beneficial insects such as hoverflies and ladybirds whose larvae feed on sap-sucking aphids. If you are an orderly gardener then plant your companion flowers in rows and blocks or as features at the corners of your beds and in containers. If you are a lover of chaos then spread them around your garden willy-nilly and include self-seeders such as borage and poppies that will happily take over any bare earth.
Sweet site and great slug trap
What a great site, and such beautiful images. I am so pleased I found it.
I do this a few days before rubbish day, then in the morning I collect all the 'slug papers' and that is the last thing that goes in the rubbish - and off they go on a journey to where ever the rubbish truck takes them!! And I put out new newspapers for the next week :)
A wonderful site - loads of value. We're going to try the slug paper trick.